We didn’t have too many soldiers in my family, but Memorial Day was a huge day for the YOUNG family. There would be my grandparents, Elmer and Arnetta, my folks with four children, my Dad’s brother, Kent and his family, their sister, Aunt ‘Cile and her children, sometimes my grandmother’s sister, Aunt Rosa and often the youngest brother, Max and his family. It was a whole caravan of Youngs. Sometimes we met up with extended family at cemeteries where they had the closest ties.
We all put peonies, tulips, lilacs, anything blooming, into water-filled quart canning jars packed into cardboard boxes, in the trunk of each vehicle. Alongside came picnic foods, lawn chairs, card tables and horseshoes for the men.
We caravaned to Atlanta, Stanford, McLean, and Congerville cemeteries in central Illinois, placing flowers on family graves.
Outside Congerville, we always stopped in the driveway of the local ‘sale barn’ [where livestock sales were held]. There we set up the card tables and spread the wonderful picnic foods everyone brought [my goodness, they all could cook….the best food in the world]. Following the “Young” blessing, we filled ourselves to the brim. While the women cleared and repacked, the men played horseshoes. We dozen or more kids found some way into the sale barn and played among the pens and gates and auction desk.
After the horseshoes were over, we loaded up and headed to Mackinaw and Goodfield cemeteries before the ride back home to Atlanta.
It was always the same each year and never the same and I should do it again before it’s too late for ‘one more memory’.
God Bless our soldiers, I knew one pretty well, but my Memorial Day is also filled with how it used to be on this day each year.
An added note: A few years ago, on a trip back to Illinois from our Georgia place, John and I took a day to visit all those cemeteries. I hoped to find as many graves as I could remember and write of their locations before I couldn’t. It was pretty much an all day trip, but we had a good time. We found over 50 sites of relatives and friends. I had to hunt a few, but I found them all.
I knew going home that I couldn’t possibly put flowers, real or artificial, on the graves, but my heart wouldn’t let me visit and leave nothing. Having some lovely flowered, heavy fabric on hand, I sewed small pendant-type flags and skewered them on 3/16 dowel rods. They were perfect and could be placed close to the stone and out of the way of those who mow.
My family will have to go a long way to find me in Kingston Cemetery, Pike County, Illinois someday. The stone is there and waiting for just the right time.